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Out of the Ordinary

Alcohol versus Cannabis

Stirring the pot on the age old comparison of alcohol and cannabis

In the discussion of alcohol versus cannabis things can get a bit sticky. The advent of Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012 has many more states looking to do the same, and 23 total have some form of legalization at all. Alcohol, on the other hand, has been a nationally legal substance since the reversal of Prohibition in 1933. Given the prolific nature of both and the open conversation currently circulating in American air, it’s time to sit down and toss these two rampantly popular substances into the proverbial wrestling ring.

Alcohol Defined

The kind of alcohol found in commercialized drinks is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. It is defined as an intoxicating ingredient used in wine, liquor, and beer, and is produced by fermenting yeast, sugars, and starches. Ethanol is a central nervous system depressant which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Most drinks consist of around .6 ounces of pure ethanol, which equals out to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and so on.

Short Term Effects

As many can attest, the short term effects of alcohol consumption are perhaps the biggest draw to the substance. Because alcohol is so rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and cell membranes are permeable to alcohol, nearly every cell in the body gets a dose of it. Short term effects include, but are not limited to:

·       Decrease in Anxiety

·       Decrease in Motor Skills

·       Unconsciousness

·       Anterograde Amnesia

·       Central Nervous System Depression

·       Alcohol Poisoning

·       Vomiting

·       Sleep Problems

Extreme levels of alcohol consumption lead to alcohol poisoning, which can then lead to death. Death can also come through asphyxiation through vomiting.

Long Term Effects

Ethanol’s long-term effects, ultimately, result in the potential damage of almost every organ and system in the body, especially in adolescents. Naturally the effects vary with the degree of consumption. With low alcohol use, the possibility for cardioprotective health benefits exists. However, the scale quickly tips when it comes to higher levels of alcohol consumption, including the reversal of those benefits. Increased risks include, but are not limited to:

·       Alcoholism

·       Malnutrition

·       Chronic Pancreatitis

·       Alcoholic Liver Disease

·       High Blood Pressure

·       Cancer

·       Damage to the Central Nervous System

·       Damage to the Peripheral Nervous System

Because alcohol is an addicting substance, dependence and withdrawal also play into the long-term effects. These can cause things like depression, neurological impairment, cardiovascular disease, and mania.

Also read: National Cancer Institute recognizes that marijuana may inhibit cancerous tumor


Cannabis Defined

Also known as marijuana, cannabis is a particular preparation of the Cannabis plant. Marijuana is used as a psychoactive drug or a medicine, and the primary psychoactive part of cannabis is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Along with THC there are over 84 other cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant. Marijuana can be consumed through a variety of methods including smoking the buds of the plant or through infusing baked goods with THC. “Medical marijuana” refers to physician-recommended use of cannabis.

Short Term Effects

The “high” of using marijuana results in a plethora of different short term effects which vary based on the person and the method of use. While alcohol is distinctly a depressant and other drugs similarly fall into specific categories, cannabis has a mix of all three properties of stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Short term effects include, but are not limited to:

·       Red Eyes

·       Reduced Pain

·       Paranoia

·       Dizziness

·       Relaxation

·       Euphoria

·       Increased Creativity

·       Increased Awareness of Sensation

·       Introspection

·       Increased Appetite

·       Memory Loss

Keep in mind that, with both alcohol and marijuana, these effects are directly related to the level of consumption. They also are different from person to person, and these lists are by no means all-inclusive.

Long Term Effects

Because cannabis is illegal in many countries, the long term effects of its use are hotly debated and still being studied. For a more thorough list of uncertainty, take a look at Wikipedia’s page, and compare it to the many websites that state negative long term effects as being full determined. The following is a tentative list of potential long term effects as dictated by several different sources:

·       Adverse Respiratory Effects (due to smoking)

·       Potential Exacerbation of Preexisting Mental Illness

·       Decreased Blood Pressure

·       Higher Heart Rate

·       Fetal Damage in Pregnant Women

·       Reduces Overall Stress Levels

There are no fatal overdoses recorded from cannabis use. Many scientists and professionals have stated that there are no negative long term effects of using cannabis, but there are just as many sites on the other end of the spectrum screaming to the opposite.

Winner Takes All?

So little has been fully unearthed about marijuana that it’s hard to see one of the two emerging successfully from the wrestling ring. Regardless, before you use any substance, be sure to do the appropriate research to ensure your safe consumption and the longevity of your own personal health and happiness.

You will also like: Higher Education: Top 10 Cannabis Colleges


Watch a humorous take on alcohol versus marijuana here.

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